Applying for grants and scholarships as a medical student

Medical school can be financially draining. Fortunately, there are plenty of scholarships and grants to help ease the burden.

There are many types of scholarships — some help pay for your textbooks, some offer unique placement opportunities, and others help pay your tuition costs.

Search databases, including:

  • My Health Career: a helpful list or scholarships and grants.
  • Search for scholarship opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (also helpful for rural and remote students).
  • Your university’s website: this should be your first point of call. Your university will offer many scholarships and grants.
  • NSW Rural Doctors Network: enter your circumstances into the search bar and this site will show you scholarships and grants for which you may be eligible.

Search specific scholarships, including:

Tips for successful scholarship and grant applications

Here are some tips to give you the best chance of success with your scholarship and grant applications.

Know what scholarships are available

A good place to start looking for scholarships is your university website. Each university will have a different range of scholarship opportunities, and many are only available to students within particular year levels of the medical program.

Usually, only a handful of people will apply for these scholarships each year.

This means that applications for university-specific scholarships have a high chance of success and are a good place to get experience in preparing applications.

Scholarships are often available through the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and are promoted on these organisations’ websites.

As the scholarships offered may change each year, search for opportunities on an annual basis. Subscribe to the mailing list of each organisation to keep up-to-date.

Make sure you are eligible

Some scholarships are only for people from certain backgrounds or circumstances, for example, those with financial hardship, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australian citizens and those in rural regions.

If you don’t fall into one of the eligibility categories, you should keep looking for other scholarship opportunities.

Address the selection criteria

Each scholarship will have a list of selection criteria, which may include a personal statement addressing specific documentation (for example, confirming your current financial situation or academic results).

Addressing each criterion in the same order as they are listed on the scholarship overview will ensure you don’t miss anything and demonstrates to the assessors that you have systematically addressed each requirement.

Observe any word or character limits strictly

When writing an application, do not simply list your experience, achievements or awards. Give examples to illustrate and explain how each of your life experiences and achievements have shaped you as a person.

Explain how you have made a difference to others around you and the factors that were considered for any awards that you have received.

Clearly illustrate what change you envisage the scholarship will make to you personally in terms of skill development, financial stability, or personal growth.

After writing your personal statement, re-read the application and ensure that each paragraph clearly and directly addresses the relevant question.

Ensure that your writing style is formal and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

Know about the scholarship and who is assessing it

Research why the scholarship was created: the goals, objectives and services or programs offered by the organisation administering the scholarship.
Research the characteristics of past recipients, including any post-scholarship reflections or reports.

K nowing these factors allows you to tailor your application to highlight experiences, personality traits and achievements that would likely be viewed favourably by the assessing panel.

You should exclude any irrelevant achievements or experiences, as these may not substantially add value to your application (in the assessors’ eyes), while using up space in your word limit.

Keep track of the due dates

Scholarship applications will only be accepted if they are received by the due date.

Take specific notice if the application has any special submission requirements (for example, mailing certified copies of documents) and ensure that you allow time to meet those requirements before the due date.

Always post hard copy mail at least one week before the due date to ensure it arrives in time.

Keep a record of your scholarship applications

Keep a copy of all of your drafts and final submissions for all of your scholarship applications.
Most scholarship selection criteria are similar and significant proportions of your previous applications to unrelated scholarships can often be reused to form the basis for a new application.

This can save a significant amount of time, however, you always need to tailor the content to the new scholarship and administering organisation.

Continue applying, even if you are not successful

A scholarship application is a very worthwhile use of your time.

If successful, an application that took two to ten hours to research and write may earn you $500 to $5,000 (or even more in some cases). This is equivalent to working a job paying over $50 per hour.

Scholarships are often poorly contested, so the odds of receiving one are reasonably high if you apply often enough.

Remember, you will never receive a scholarship if you never apply.

By Matthew Riggs.
Matthew is the GPSN James Cook University Chair. He is a Year 6 (final year) medical student and is interested in rural health, illness prevention, internal medicine, paediatrics and mental health. He enjoys the diversity of general practice and the opportunities for continuity of care and to develop strong therapeutic relationships with patients, especially in rural settings. Over the past five years, he has successfully applied for eight scholarships, which have provided him with cash payments, attendance at conferences and overseas placement opportunities.

You may also be interested in...

GPSN membership is FREE, join today!

What's going on? Check out the latest GPSN news.

There is a GPSN club across all the major medical schools in Australia! Find your local club today.